Tournament Fighting or Training for the Streets? – Part Four: A Lifetime of Lessons – Calasanz Extended Biography

Continued from: “Tournament Fighting or Training for the Streets? – Part Three: A Lifetime of Lessons – Calasanz Extended Biography”

I was often asked by some tournament promoters to come and help out with judging and giving my famous Super Break demonstrations during intermission.  When I helped with judging, I saw that a lot of cheating was going on.  Judges would show a lot of favoritism and ignore the scoring of points when it didn’t benefit their students.  I was very careful to capture every move and to score fairly.  I was also very fair when my own students fought and would award the points to the one who deserved it.  

At this one tournament where I was a regular, the promoter had tremendous respect for me, my system and my students.  I remember the first time they were introducing all of the masters and of course all of their ranks, some included 5th, 6th and 7th degree black belts.  Then they called me and I just had a black belt.  Everyone looked at me and expected that I would have some high rank.  I never pursued a higher rank because I wanted to be a well-rounded martial artist.  I didn’t want to get locked into one system for the rest of my life.  I wanted to see the whole logic behind the martial arts.  In addition, I am of the opinion that a lot of these ranks are artificial and self-created.  I remember one guy who claimed to be a Grandmaster of Wing Chun.  I found this hard to believe considering he was only 29 years old.  He took out an ad in a local newspaper where he applauded himself for being elected Grandmaster of Wing Chun by an association that he started himself!!! 

As an instructor, I am constantly asked about my school’s tournament participation and how many trophies I myself have won.  I’d like to start off by saying that I have great respect for martial artists who devote their time to training for kata and point fighting competition.  It takes a lot of discipline and hard work to pursue these goals.  What I object to is the public’s perception that the sign of a great fighter is winning lots of tournaments.  Unfortunately, today’s martial art tournaments look more like gymnastics and dance routines.  Some instructors who do well at tournaments, but have no street fighting experience try to convince their students that they can teach them how to protect themselves on the streets.  A person would have to train for many years in a traditional martial art before he would be able to use it on the streets.  Growing up in the rural areas of the Dominican Republic gave me a lot of street fighting experience when I wasn’t even looking.  Part of being a man were I come from meant that you didn’t back down from a challenge.  This went on even after I started taking martial arts.  Men would always challenge each other to knock down, drag down fights.  In 1975, one of my first instructors, a brown belt killer, who was twice my size, wanted to fight me despite the fact that I only had a few lessons in karate.  Finally, he convinced me to fight.  Because of my experience in street fighting, they had to stop the fight by pulling me off of him.  No matter how many belts, stripes, degrees or trophies you have, nothing beats the experience you get on the streets.

In 1995, I started making my movie, so we weren’t very focused on sending people to tournaments for about 4 years.  Several opportunities did present themselves and they were too good to pass up.  One of my students, Jim Calvi, had his own school called Force Three Tae Kwon Do.  I was interested in proving my skills as an instructor.  I trained a group of 12 students to participate in the 1996 Olympic trials in both kata and fighting.  Because we were not a tae kwon do school, we competed under the Force Three name because the competition was limited to practitioners of Tae Kwon Do.  Some of my students ended up having to fight each other for the gold medal.  I didn’t care that they weren’t fighting under my name.  All I cared about was to prove a point and that my skills as an instructor could be applied in a variety of areas. 

To be continued…

Calasanz Martial Arts and Fitness

507 Westport Ave. Norwalk, CT06851

www.calasanz.com

www.interdojo.com

www.the-perfectfit.com

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